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Kiss Me, Judas (1998)

de Will Christopher Baer

Séries: Phineas Poe (1)

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433243,625 (3.78)9
Ex-cop Phineas Poe has just been released from a psychiatric hospital when he meets Jude. She is savage, unsentimental and gorgeous. After spending the night with her, Phineas wakes up to discover that one of his kidneys has been stolen.

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KISS ME, JUDAS is a lightning-paced work of neo-noir. The novel follows Phineas Poe, a former cop (of sorts) who has his kidney stolen by a charismatic, dangerous woman following his release from a mental institution. Violence, sex, paranoia, hallucinations, and drugs hang from Phineas as he commences a twisted journey for his own sanity.

The plot is lean and sharp, reinforced by quick-witted characters. Sometimes their acerbic nature is a bit tiresome, given that every character with a speaking role is clever and bursting with pessimistic quips, but overall it makes for an entertaining novel. The book is delivered in short bursts by Baer, his prose only occasionally serving as a hindrance -- his descriptions are often weak and bland, and quickly fall into easily discerned pattern. His presentation of Poe's tortured mind, however, is excellent, both trippy and vivid.

KISS ME, JUDAS is a light, often visceral novel. It is quick and enjoyable. ( )
  Matt_Sessions | Jun 28, 2012 |
Phineas Poe is an ex-cop, just released from a psychiatric ward after a six month stay for a nervous break down. His job is gone, his wife is dead, and Poe really doesn’t have much to live for. Enter, Jude. This beautiful woman in red sits down next to Poe and the two begin to converse. Poe is easily seduced by Jude – especially after she drugs his drink. Poe remembers nothing after taking her back to his hotel room. He wakes up smack dab in the middle of an urban legend. Shivering in a cold bathtub filled with melting ice and watered-down blood, Poe’s kidney is missing. Jude has made off with his organ, and neatly stapled him back together. She left him a note: “If you want to live, call 911”.

Furious with himself and with being betrayed by Jude, Poe skips medical treatment and heads out to find Jude to get his kidney back. It’s a matter of principle at this point. Being an ex-cop, Poe realizes his kidney may be heading toward the black market. He hits up his former informants for any information about Jude or his kidney, knowing that time is of the essence. With no serious leads, Poe is only getting angrier. Crumb, a ‘friend’ of Poe’s who performs cheap abortions and sutures gunshot wounds thanks to his medical texts and not a medical degree, assists Poe as much as he can. Unfortunately, the only real thing he can do for Poe is give him Morphine for the pain, and the only real thing he can tell Poe is that his kidney has been replaced (maybe) with a baggie of heroin. Oh, and if it leaks, he dies.

Poe exercises every contact and every method he can to track down Jude, continuously finding himself in near-miss crossings. Jude wants Poe to find her, and she can’t explain why. Poe wants to kill Jude, and he certainly can explain why. The two dance around each other in a series of short phone calls and messages until they finally end up on the same side of the playing field, running from the… who knows. Jude is quite cryptic as to what they are running from, but all Poe knows is everyone they meet somehow ends up brutally murdered.

Somewhere along the line, the anti-couple realizes they are falling in love, but whether or not they will live to explore these feelings is rather up in the air.

Favorite Passages/Quotes

"Sorrow is like the ocean and sometimes I wish my heart would stop."

"Every time I close my eyes I'm dreaming"

"He has the expression of someone who wishes the rain would stop."

"Sometimes there is nothing as horrible as a familiar face"

"And my life went to pieces, like a love letter in the rain."


Baer’s first novel in a series of three was executed very well. Understanding that Poe is recovering from a nervous breakdown through out this book is key to following his logic and thoughts in the narration. There are beautifully tragic passages by Poe that really take the readers breath away. While this novel lagged in places and felt like it went in circles at times, it was still enough to keep reading. The cat and mouse game between Jude and Poe got somewhat annoying after awhile, but I guess one can say is was a plot necessity. Character wise, Baer has quite the colorful cast. He creates detailed imagery, making sure the reader knows exactly who each person is. The lovely detail and dark descriptions bring his characters to life… often times right before they die.

I enjoyed this book, but recall being slightly upset with it as well. I was turned on to Baer by fellow Palahniuk fans, and perhaps it was only because I was so used to the polished dark literature of Palahniuk that I held Baer to such a high standard. I will cut him some slack, realizing this is his first novel in the Phineas Poe series, and will certainly read the other two novels (Penny Dreadful, Hell’s Half Acre) with a more open mind.

Rating: On a scale of 1-5 stars, this book is a 4. Its writing is poetic, but not out of context, and the detail put into characters is great. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys neo-noir literature, suspense novels, or Chuck Palahniuk. ( )
1 vote kjarcand | May 5, 2008 |
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Ex-cop Phineas Poe has just been released from a psychiatric hospital when he meets Jude. She is savage, unsentimental and gorgeous. After spending the night with her, Phineas wakes up to discover that one of his kidneys has been stolen.

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